Broadband Plan targets set-top duopoly

The FCC has taken aim at the flailing CableCARD in its 376-page National Broadband Plan, deciding that a competitive retail channel has not emerged for cable boxes and adding suggestions to jumpstart the space. Specifically, the Commission took aim at the set-top duopoly of Motorola and Cisco Systems which it said controls about 92 percent of the set-top market as opposed to the free-wheeling mobile industry.

"(T)he FCC, in partnership with industry, developed the CableCARD standard to incent competition in the set-top box market. Yet by 2008, two manufacturers shared 92 percent of the market, up from 87 percent in 2006. Only 11 set-top boxes have been certified for retail sale, in contrast to the more than 850 unique handsets that were certified to operate on mobile networks in 2009 alone," the FCC plan said. "In addition, 97 percent of CableCARD-deployed set-top boxes installed between July 2007 and November 2009 were leased from operators rather than purchased at retail."

This "lack of innovation in set-top boxes limits consumer choice and stymies the emergence of new uses and applications, as well as potentially "inhibiting business models that could serve as a powerful driver of adoption and utilization of broadband, such as, models that integrate traditional television and the Internet," the plan continued. As a remedy, the FCC has recommended the development of a standards-based gateway to replace traditional set-tops beginning no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

For more:
- see the National Broadband Plan
- and this story

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